Saturday, 22 December 2012

Street Art in São Paulo Part 7 - Nunca


Street Art São Paulo Brazil

Nunca, is one of the standout artists of the graffiti and street-art scene in São Paulo

He's been painting the city's streets since the 1990s and uses a sketching style reminiscent of old school etchings. Due to this style and his use of bright colours his works are amongst the cities most easily recognised. As he tends to produce very large high impact murals, it's difficult for his work to go unnoticed.

Below are some examples:

Street Art São Paulo Brazil
Man in a suit holds an indigenous scalp


Street Art Sao Paulo Brazil
Indigineous person watch TV amongst the rubble

He focuses on the confrontation of modern Brazil with its native past often displaying indigenous people in various scenes of interaction or conflict with contemporary culture. In his own words:

"My work centers around the changing, mixing and invasion of one kind of culture by another, and especially the interaction of old and tribal ways of living and the modern way of life"

See more posts on São Paulo street art here

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Vitra: São Paulo's skyline gains a new icon


Edificio Vitra São Paulo

Yes, it’s another skyscraping condominium in São Paulo. Yes it’s in Itaim the supposedly entertaining but boringly predictable mid to upper class neighbourhood favoured by expats in São Paulo. Yes, it will contribute to the verticalisation of São Paulo’s neighbourhoods. And yes, 99,9% of São Paulo’s inhabitants will never step foot inside.

But it’s beautiful.

Vitra, the apartment block which poses as a colossal glass sculpture will provide a landmark building to be proud of, something São Paulo actually has very few. Granted there are many tall buildings, too many one could argue,  but most look identical to the one next to it which in turn looks identical to the one next to it and the one beyond that. The sort of “wow” building that you expect to see (and do see) when you travel to Seoul or Tokyo or Shanghai or New York is strangely missing in the similarly sized São Paulo. Growth has come first, design a poor second.

So take a second look at the the plans Daniel Libeskind has for Horácio Lafer Avenue. The architect better known for his Imperial War Museum in Manchester, The projected L Tower in Toronto or the Haeundae Park Marina in Busan, Korea is launching his first ever project in South America. And right here in São Paulo.

Edificio Vitra São Paulo
Artist's impression of Vitra at night

Vitra has only one apartment per floor, each with a customized floor plan, plus an additional two floor penthouse which one of São Paulo’s many millionaires has no doubt already snapped up. The very smallest apartment will be 565 square meters, beyond most of our means, but then the project was never designed to be modest.

According to Libeskind “it represents the unfolding dynamism of a unique place and an energetic population full of optimism and potential, gesturing openly to a wide panorama of São Paulo it represents the unfolding dynamism of a unique place and an energetic population full of optimism and potential, gesturing openly to a wide panorama of São Paulo”. 

Whether you agree or not and whether you like it or not, Libeskind present to São Paulo’s skyline is already well underway and will be unveiled in 2013.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Why São Paulo – Rio de Janeiro is the busiest air route in the world


The acronym CGH-SDU is probably familiar to most readers of Discovering São Paulo. Many of us have boarded a plane at Congonhas airport (CGH) and chosen Santos Dumont airport (SDU) as our destination, our carioca neighbours doing the same in reverse. In fact, as surprising as it sounds, with 1,130 commercial flights a week there are no two airports in the world with more aircraft movements, the next closest pair being Melbourne and Sydney with 950 weekly flights.



Excluding connection flights if we look at the busiest routes not by plane numbers but by passenger volume (see above) CGH-SDU is knocked off top place by the Seoul-Jeju pairing, Jeju being a small island close to the South Korean capital. But even if the inefficiency of the route means it has proportionally more planes to passengers than other global connections CGH-CDU is still in second place far ahead of Beijing-Shanghai, Cape Town-Johannesburg or Madrid-Barcelona. So what is the reason for such a busy route.

Rios-São Paulo is the second most busy commercial route by passenger volume
The answer lies in multiple factors. The plurality of carriers covering the route is key. In the case of Congonhas to Santos Dumont both high volume low cost carriers such as Gol, the recently taken over Webjet and Avianca run the route as well as the more traditional TAM Airlines. A quick look at the ranking  also shows that most pairings with high volumes are major urban areas in close proximity to each other (short haul flights are more common than long haul ones meaning volume is higher). Another factor is the relative importance of the cities which the airport connects. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro being the top 2 GDP contributing Brazilian cities making the journey a key business route.

Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo fit all of the above conditions but in addition the local lie of the land and vehicular infrastructure is such that choosing not to fly is complicated; there are no train links and it is 6 hours by car which can take much longer if the weather is poor, the traffic is dense or it is holiday season. This makes the complications of reaching the destination by other means comparable to that of the many island desinations in the ranking (Tokyo, Jeju, Jakarta)

The relatively poorly located and difficulty of reaching alternative airports such as São Paulo’s larger but more isolated Guarulhos/Cumbica or the Tom Jobim/Galeão in Rio also drives airlines and passengers alike to concentrate on “in-city” airports so whilst it is always a “feel good” to head up rankings it is as much driven by poor infrastructure as the importance of the cities themselves.

Food for thought next time you catch a CGH to SDU!


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The secrets behind São Paulo’s extraordinary recycling rates


The figures are breathtaking, to the point of being on the verge of miraculous. ABAL, the Brazilian Aluminium Association’s 2011 figures show that for the tenth (yes, 10th) year running Brazil has the highest rate of aluminium can recycling in the world reaching a new world record of 98,3%. In other words, over 98 of every 100 cans produced in Brazil make their way to the recycling plant before hitting the rubbish heap. Brazil is a vast country so that equates to 2million cans recycled per hour and in São Paulo the system is of such efficiency that the same metal you drink out of today will have a 98% chance of being back on a shelf somewhere in the city within 33 days.

To put that in context, the next highest recycler of aluminium cans is Japan at 92,6%, a highly developed and procedure-focused country. The average for Europe is a shameful 66,7% which in turn is still slightly higher than the rate of 54,1% in the US.

The can recycling business indirectly saves energy due to a recycled can being 20 times more energy efficient to produce than a new one and as a sector injects over R$ 600million into the Brazilian economy per year. Impressive figures but how is that achieved.

Whilst the ABAL and the politicians may point to educational programs, social initiatives, environmental awareness, technlogy and processing chains, the real answer is in the last paragraph. It’s all about the money. Part of the R$ 600million comes from paying for to have these cans searched for and collected by a legion of scrap hunters or catadores as they are locally known.

A catador, or scrap collector, hard at work
No catador is hunting cans for the joy of global environmental impact, rather the can has become the best scrap to hunt. You get more reais per gram handing a can than virtually anything else, and they are thrown out in abundance. It is the cheapest and most efficient recycling system and requires no government investment.

For every 75 cans a catador gets approximately R$3 (depending on the region) whereas a kilo of paper or 20 plastic PET bottles fetch just a few cents. 

The catadores are paid enough for it to be worthwhile for them to eek out a living on collecting cans (rather than other material) but sufficiently poorly to ensure recycling is a highly profitable activity. Pure capitalism at work, ethically questionable, but without a doubt effective as the 98,3% figure shows.

Recycling bins, a rare sight in São Paulo

But before we celebrate here’s a thought for the next time you go to a major event in São Paulo and you see a catador collecting cans: the time he invests in collecting cans he neglects in collecting other material. And without true governmental initiatives, excelling in one sector will by definition mean failing in other. Unsurprisingly Brazil is nowhere to be seen in the ranking of top paper-recycling countries for instance…
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